Strumming / Activities
Revisiting stereotypes of the harp and double bass in ‘jagged’ performances of smooth compositions.
Éliane Radigue was born in January 1932. She is one of those artists whose work will always occupy an important place in the Sacrum Profanum repertoire. The 90th anniversary of the composer’s birthday is an excellent opportunity to once again present her meditative works intended for deep listening. This time it will include both her electronic works, which granted her the title of one of the world’s pioneers in this genre and her late instrumental works dedicated to specific performers. We will begin with an installation presentation of the variant composition ∑ = a = b = a + b, which can be listened to in countless ways. In the original version, these vinyl records with compositions filling respectively sides A and B can be listened to separately or simultaneously. Moreover, each record can be played at any speed (33 and 1/3, 45 or 78 rotations per minute). This time, we will discover this piece in a digital reconstruction by the Polish-French composer Kasper T. Toeplitz, in a version co-created by the audience. Toeplitz already presented Radigue’s Elemental II piece in Kraków in 2019, and in 2016 we heard his piece Agitation | Stagnation commissioned by Sacrum Profanum for the zeitkratzer ensemble.
This is just an introduction to the performance by the excellent harpist Hélène Breschand, who will perform material published on her album Octopus (Bocian Records). The artist will combine the delicate Radigue’s piece performed on classical harp with the massive composition by Toeplitz played on electric harp, additionally processed live by the composer. Bartek Chaciński reviewed OCCAM OCEAN XVI with the following words:
The constant association with water is natural for the French composer, who compared the experience of listening to that of observing the surface of water: the waves unfolding on the surface, the reflections of light, the landscapes, analogous to electronic soundscapes, that are thus created. But this is a different phase of her work – she has been writing for acoustic instruments for a long time, as instrumentalists are finally able to follow her vision. The artist recalls that she knew perfectly well what she wanted from the musicians already 30 or 40 years ago, but at that time the indications received from Radigue only made them laugh.
Toeplitz, in turn, is the person from whom it all began. It was he who persuaded Radigue to write her first instrumental piece, just for him; it was also he who introduced Breschand to Radigue, and co-founded with the harpist the IRE trio. Toeplitz consistently develops his compositional language towards saturated, textural sound masses. In a way it is close to Radigue’s work, but a bit boosted.
However, before Breschand appears on stage, we will hear Mike Majkowski, an Australian double bassist of Polish origin, living in Berlin for years, whom you may know from albums of the Polish band Lotto or from the concert of Anthony Pateras opening Sacrum Profanum in 2019. He is one of the most interesting musicians on the improvisation scene, who has consistently built his radically minimalist style based on drones, silences and repetitions. His work consists of subtle timbral changes in time, realised with a purely acoustic double bass or with the addition of electronics. Majkowski’s trance-like pieces reveal a superb mastery of instrumental skills, exploiting particular articulation techniques to the limit. Majkowski will present a completely new composition for double bass, which in his hands appears to be a completely different, light, even singing instrument with a delicate and bright sound.